The trial of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, will open this week with tales of lavish spending, secret shell companies and millions of dollars of Ukrainian money flowing through offshore bank accounts and into the political consultant’s pocket, the Associated Press reports. What’s likely to be missing: answers about whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election, or possibly any mention of Russia at all. Manafort’s financial crimes trial, the first arising from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, will center on his Ukrainian consulting work and only briefly touch on his involvement with the president’s campaign.
The trial, scheduled to begin Tuesday with jury selection in Alexandria, Va., will give the public its most detailed glimpse of evidence Mueller’s team has spent the year accumulating. It will feature testimony about the dealings and foreign ties of a defendant Trump entrusted to run his campaign during a critical stretch in 2016 convention. It will unfold at a delicate time for the president as Mueller’s team presses for an interview and as Trump escalates his attacks on a “witch hunt.” Adding to the intrigue is the expected spectacle of Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, testifying against him after cutting a plea deal with prosecutors, and speculation that Manafort may be holding out for a pardon from Trump. “Perhaps he believes that he’s done nothing wrong, and because he’s done nothing wrong, he’s unwilling to plead guilty to any crime whatsoever — even if it’s a lesser crime,” said Jimmy Gurule, a Notre Dame law professor and former federal prosecutor. “Obviously, that’s very risky for him.”